Education

His essay won national praise in 2016. Sunday, he was shot and killed in Lexington.

In this Herald-Leader photo from January 2016, Carl Garner Jr. is shown in a classroom at the Lexington Day Treatment Center. His essay on why a hotdog is not a sandwich was featured on the Judge John Hodgman podcast. On Sunday, Garner became Lexington’s second homicide victim of 2018.
In this Herald-Leader photo from January 2016, Carl Garner Jr. is shown in a classroom at the Lexington Day Treatment Center. His essay on why a hotdog is not a sandwich was featured on the Judge John Hodgman podcast. On Sunday, Garner became Lexington’s second homicide victim of 2018. palcala@herald-leader.com

In late January two years ago, teenager Carl Garner Jr. was featured on a national comedy podcast for an essay he wrote about whether a hotdog was a sandwich. Afterward, he was honored by local school district officials for that work.

The attention brought Garner, a normally quiet student at Lexington Day Treatment Center, pride and confidence, said Eric Little, his teacher at the time.

On Sunday night, Garner, 19, became Lexington’s second homicide victim of 2018. He was found shot inside a south Lexington home.

The news fell hard on Little, who had brought Carl’s essay to the attention of humorist John Hodgman of the weekly comedy podcast “Judge John Hodgman.”

“It’s been a tough couple of days. Carl was real special to me and I’ve had a hard time with him going,” said Little, who now teaches at Bryan Station High School . “It was almost two years to the day since the (Herald-Leader) article came out” about Garner’s essay.

Little said the last he knew of Garner, about a year ago, he was doing well.

“He was a kid I really hoped would make it. He got encouragement. He got support,” said Little. “He had integrity that a lot of kids don’t have at that age. He could be very kind. He stepped up when it was necessary.”

Garner, at 17, wrote his essay answering the question “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” in the form of a letter that was so persuasive that Little emailed Hodgman. With Carl’s permission, Hodgman shared the essay on a January 2016 podcast.

Fayette County School board officials later noted the accomplishment at one of their meetings.

“This is very very sad,” Hodgman said on Twitter late Tuesday. He described the news as “devastating.”

The Lexington Day Treatment Center is run by Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government in collaboration with Fayette County Public Schools and the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice. Students in grades six to 12 take classes with school district teachers in a smaller environment and receive individualized treatment and counseling from the Division of Youth Services professionals.

Garner’s mother, Luwana Waller, told the Herald-Leader in 2016 that her son could have returned to regular classes but stayed at the Day Treatment Center because he was making academic progress.

Lexington police had said little about the homicide by Tuesday morning except that Garner was discovered at a home on River Park Drive by a family member. Damage to the house consistent with gunfire was also found, police said. It was not clear if Garner was shot inside or outside the home. Garner was transported to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital where he died shortly after 9:30 p.m. Sunday , the coroner’s office said.

Waller told the Herald-Leader in 2016 that getting praise for his essay was good for her son. “I think it gave him confidence. He felt important.”

Garner asserted in his essay that a hotdog wasn’t a sandwich.

“A sandwich is two pieces of bread,” Garner wrote. “In between those pieces of bread might be some mayonnaise, some tomatoes, some lettuce, and some baloney. It’s like someone trying to say that you’re making a baloney sandwich without lettuce and mayo. It would still be a sandwich because that’s what it’s been called for years and years. We can’t change history.”

As for hotdogs, Garner wrote, “Even the Hotdog and Sausage Council states that a hotdog is not a sandwich. These are experts in the area of hotdogs, and if there is a higher hotdog authority, I don’t know what it is. … Hotdog buns specifically state that they are for hotdogs only.”

Little said in his 2016 email to Hodgman that you never know what’s going to spark interest in young people. “Turns out he feels passionately about sandwiches and hot dogs.”

At the time, Garner told the Herald-Leader that the attention he received had inspired him to write more.

Garner’s father, Carl Garner Sr., posted the Herald-Leader article about the essay on his Facebook page and said he was proud of his son.

Since the younger Garner’s death this weekend, Carl Garner Sr. has been posting on Facebook about his grief.

“This does not get any easier as time passes, the pain and anger only grows more by the minute,” Garner Sr. said in a post. “When I close my eyes all I see is my son’s lifeless body.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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